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CNN Live Event/Special

Kevin McCarthy Appears To Lose Twelfth Ballot But Flips Some Holdouts; Interview With Representative Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) About Vote For Speaker Of The House. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 06, 2023 - 13:00   ET



DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Eventually if I was the Republicans, no one would go home. All right? We'd stay here and keep voting and voting, and I believe the isolation of Matt Gaetz and Good and these other folks who are the outliers, you know, there are going to be a few outliers and that exact number as we talked about earlier still is not exactly known, right? If it's four, five, six, seven, makes a big difference. If it's four or five --

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: When you talk about the isolation of them, I mean, what, it's like high school, nobody talks to them?

URBAN: That's what it is, right. At West Point they used to call it the silence. Right? At West Point, no one would talk to you back in the day, you couldn't -- you were, you know, put in exile. You're an Elba. Right? And so I think that's what they're going to have to get to here eventually, right. You're going to have the folks --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mary Miller just --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's another one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mary Miller just --

URBAN: So Miller. Let's wait and see with Chip Roy and if you have Scott Perry here voting yes.

COOPER: No, that's Mary Miller.

URBAN: Yes, you'll have the serious people, right, will now come over to Kevin and then you'll have the kind of the clown show for a lack of a better phrase, right? The people who are just -- they're just here for theater, right? And if those are the folks that are still outstanding McCarthy is going to win.


COOPER: That was Mary Miller, we should point out.

HOOVER: Mary Miller who had previously been part of the bloc of 20 who had not voted for McCarthy just flipped her vote. So you see this building momentum in terms of splitting the bloc of the 20 who are obstinate against McCarthy. They're starting to peel them off.

The thing to look at if, you know, if you don't read the tea leaves of Republican House politics every day is the difference in that 20 between the intransigent ones who are there not in good faith to simply make a stand and make a show and frankly burn the house down, and the ones who have principled policy differences where they're really using this moment to negotiate some policy that they care about, some principle that they care about and are genuinely acting -- you may laugh at good faith because this is the 12th round of voting but frankly these negotiations could have happened a month ago. Right?

URBAN: By the way, Margaret, you sent out fundraising e-mails, right -- I'm sure Chip Roy wasn't sending out fundraising e-mail. Matt Gaetz was, right?

HOOVER: That's a great litmus test. That's a great litmus test.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, there is a parable in the bible about a rich man who goes to hell and begs for a drop of water on the tongue to assuage his inflammation and, you know, he never got it but Kevin McCarthy did today so this is a, this show of --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is biblical.

JENNINGS: He's been in hell for the last three days and finally a few drops of water. It's not a full cup of water yet, but he's getting closer. This is finally a sign of good faith from the people that have been talking endlessly. It's obviously momentum for McCarthy. There's still six people who aren't voting for him and clowns or not, you know, their votes count the same on the floor. And that really -- the calling out of this group has been the question and now does the pressure or anything else move Matt Gaetz and his contention? I don't know the answer to that yet but at least we now know the math.

URBAN: We'll know the names, right? We'll know that these are the holdouts who aren't going, right? Before it was just kind of a morphos group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's another one.


COOPER: Berman. Let's bring in Manu Raju again. Manu, who was it who just flipped? Manu, is it -- We're here on the air. Who was it -- was that Norman?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Norman is a huge get.

RAJU: Yes. Hey, that was Ralph Norman. I think you tossed to me, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Yes, Manu.

RAJU: Yes, this is a major surprise, in fact, just before this vote, I talked to Ralph Norman, I said are you going to vote for Kevin McCarthy in the next ballot, he said he was going to vote for Byron Donalds and here we are an hour later, he is on the floor voting for Kevin McCarthy. That is a surprise and another sign that things are shifting in McCarthy's direction.

Norman was one who had initially was seen as a hard no and became a softer no. He said that even a couple of days ago, I asked him, is there any chance you could vote for Kevin McCarthy? He said, he said, no, but miracles happen. That was his words. Miracles happen.

Just a couple of days ago, and just an hour ago he said he was voting for Byron Donalds so it's unclear exactly what happened from an hour ago but he did tell me that he was still reviewing the deal that had been proposed to make a number of changes here and perhaps that he got briefed on it further in the last hour and came to yes, but clearly a positive sign for McCarthy that he got Ralph Norman's support.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the question is, how are miracles made? We don't know what deals have been cut. Most of the members on that floor probably don't know all of the assurances that have been made. We know there will be a rules package and that rules package will leave the speaker much less powerful than the speaker has been.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is McCarthy. That's a big deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott Perry. That's big.

AXELROD: There was this talk that 10 might go, the 10 may go, and the question is, you know, you talk about the isolating the others on an island, they may just be island dwellers, man.


They may not want to leave. But the real question for the country should be what exactly was committed and what are the implications.

COOPER: I just want to go back to Manu. Manu, the fact that Scott Perry switched. What does that tell you?

RAJU: Yes. That is another very, very significant moment here. Scott Perry is the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, that far-right group, many of them who are a part of this bloc of 20 members. He has been engaged in these intense negotiations over the last day or so. He's been signaling that, you know, he was not signaling things were going particularly well even yesterday. He was very angry about some of the leaks that came out, about we reported about some of the concessions after we reported that news, he was very angry.

He said that leaks shouldn't happen and suggested that talks were not having in good faith but nevertheless he continued to negotiate. He continued to push for a lot of these changes and these members have been asking for. More leverage, more say in the legislative process, to try to get some commitments on how to cut domestic discretionary spending. Among those issues were part of this deal that was cut, not officially a final deal but a tentative deal but that appears to be enough to get Scott Perry. So a significant moment here for McCarthy.

AXELROD: Just to continue on this point, Scott Perry, we're now in the anniversary of January 6th, he was one of the members who was most deeply implicated in January 6th. In fact, I think and -- I think, you know, his cell phone was confiscated by the FBI. One of the things that apparently was agreed to is this very robust committee to investigate the FBI, to investigate the CIA and so on, so, you know, when you say the serious people have come across --

COOPER: Let's listen in.





JENNINGS: So one thing about Rosendale.


JENNINGS: He's from Montana, he's been one of the key Never Kevin. There are Senate (INAUDIBLE), we're going to have a Senate race in Montana. Rosendale wants to run and so does Ryan Zinke, the former Trump Interior secretary. He's been with McCarthy. Rosendale has been against. So there's like Montana political implications.

COOPER: Obviously Chip Roy is coming up. We'll listen as well.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Kevin McCarthy.


URBAN: Yes, there you go.

JENNINGS: By the way, Chip Roy has delivered. There has been this talk that he had a bloc. This guy has delivered.

COOPER: Some of the votes that we just have seen today.

JENNINGS: Delivered his people.

URBAN: Chip Roy articulated his -- he was serious about this the entire time. He said these are the things I'd like to see happen. If we get those done I will vote for Kevin.

AXELROD: Scott, your point, though, about Rosendale is that he's looking for some leverage in that primary and he thinks that he can rally the right-wing base by being on the island.

JENNINGS: Yes, he thinks there's room to run in that flank of the party that is just, you know, tear down all leadership and Zinke is betting on, you know, being sort of someone who --


AXELROD: For larger challenge for the Republican Party.

URBAN: Well, at some point when you have 200 plus of your colleagues, right, 200 and not 18, 200 and whatever the number. 214, 216, a short number and you're holding out here, it's going to get awful lonely.

JENNINGS: We've been discussing Scott Perry. He just tweeted to explain his vote. "We're at a turning point. I have negotiated in good faith with one purpose to restore the people's House back to its rightful owners. The framework for an agreement is in place so in a good faith effort I voted to restore the people's House by voting for McCarthy."

That's a strong statement and articulating where I think some of these 20 are.

COOPER: So, Karen, there's 10 so far votes have flipped to McCarthy today.

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: And so far McCarthy has been good to his word that we are -- he is moving in the right direction. At the same time I want to go back to something David said. The devil is in the details. We don't yet know at what cost these 10 have come over. What does that mean for our country? What does it mean for -- I mean, you all talk about people negotiating in good faith. But what does it really mean in terms of the power and how they will use that power in a new Congress?

And, again, I think, you know, as we continue to go micro to macro, remember how we started today on the steps of the Capitol remembering, honoring those who lost their lives on January 6th, and, you know, look, the Republican Party cannot escape the reality --

COOPER: That was Self who just flipped to -- Self flipping to McCarthy so that's now 11 votes.

FINNEY: The Republican Party cannot escape the reality that two years ago we saw the specter of a group of extremists trying to overthrow our government and here we are again two years later on the same day and there is a group of extremists trying to hold hostage the functioning of our government. That is on the Republican Party.

COOPER: David Urban, to your point earlier, I mean, it's now 11 votes flipped so we're getting closer to seeing who the holdouts are.


URBAN: And then you kind of retreat, go back, you know, you kind of take a recess again if they could. That would be ideal, right. Get out and plan again for the next wave.

COOPER: The flipside of this is in order to get those however many remaining holdouts, if more deals need to be done, do you risk losing other more moderates or at this point is no one going to defect who's already supporting McCarthy because they just want to get this done?

URBAN: I mean, I think if you've now voted for Kevin McCarthy I don't see Scott Perry going backwards. I don't see Chip Roy going backwards.

AXELROD: No, no.

COOPER: The more moderate --

FINNEY: It's the moderates.

URBAN: No, I think the -- I think you're in for a penny, in for a pound. I don't think you're going to see moderate Republicans walk away from this deal. I think they want to get done, they want to get on the governing. I think they're reasonable about this. I think that she --

JENNINGS: That's Spartz.

COOPER: Spartz.

URBAN: Spartz voted for McCarthy.

JENNINGS: From Indiana.

FINNEY: But have we answered the question as to whether or not -- you know, we still have an open question as of this morning, how many of the Republican caucus have actually seen all the details of the deal so in those moderates, have they seen the deal?

URBAN: I'm sure probably a handful.

HOOVER: I think that's a question actually for the next round of balloting, right? Because what are the deals that McCarthy is going to have to make in order to try to whittle away some of the remaining nine.

AXELROD: What's very clear to me is the deals he's already made. I said yesterday, I still believe this today, this group of 20 has already won. They have already won because they have exacted commitments from McCarthy that will leave him standing there with his gavel and not that much more.

URBAN: But, David, I would say perhaps not. I mean offering, you know, amendments on the floor of the House, right, having a more open process, I don't think those are bad things.

AXELROD: No, they're not. I'm not arguing having the sort of Damocles hanging over the speaker's head, threatening to vacate the chair and only one person needs to trigger that, that is what drove John Boehner out of the Congress. JENNINGS: This is the dynamics question. Today there is an alliance

between Kevin McCarthy and the most conservative people in his conference. How long does that goodwill or good faith last? They're going to get through this vote but in two weeks, is that goodwill still there?

COOPER: Jake, let's go back to you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Anderson. And we're joined now by Congressman Kelly Armstrong, Republican of North Dakota who has been a supporter of Kevin McCarthy on all 12 ballots.

So you were McCarthy before McCarthy was cool, Congressman. How was he able to pick up these 12 votes so far of people who were not voting for him who just now voted for him?

REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): I think it's been the same way he's shown his leadership style over the last four years I've been in Congress. Late last night when there were different groups organizing and meeting and trying to come to terms, Speaker-elect McCarthy wasn't even there. He trusted people on both sides of the aisle to sit around the table, do it as long as it takes and come to a conclusion and it shows that there are a lot of people, even people who some of my constituents disagree with on both sides of this issue that are really negotiating in good faith for what they think will make this place run better.

TAPPER: Are you at all concerned about what might have been given away in these negotiations? We've heard, look, we don't know for sure right now but there's talk of a $75 billion cut to the Defense budget, which some of your more hawkish colleagues and individuals on the House Armed Services Committee have expressed concerns about. Is it possible too many concessions were made here?

ARMSTRONG: You know, just before I came on we were talking about the motion to vacate and the reality is, I think that is always been what it is. In some ways it kind of becomes like (INAUDIBLE). It's something everybody can rally around but the reality is we have a five-vote majority right now and any five members can go down the floor and they can stop a rule. They can stop an approps bill.

We don't operate the same way the Democrats do. It's not just a hardline issue. There's not very many people in our conference that will stand for a 1200-page bill coming off a speaker's copy machine at midnight and us voting for it at noon the next day. So this is by no means the end, Jake. This is just the beginning and I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities to talk about the slog that is the legislative process in the next two years.

TAPPER: No. Look, obviously I think and we've been covering it this way the whole time, some of the items that the rebels were pushing for, the 72-hour delay between introducing legislation and actually voting on the legislation, liberalizing the amendment process, liberalizing the process by which individuals are able to introduce legislation, a lot of that sounds really good, but I'm asking specifically about some items that maybe you wouldn't be on board with. Like the $75 billion cut of the Defense budget or --

ARMSTRONG: I don't think you can ink that without a vote on the floor of the House. I mean, there are going to be processes about how we deal with making sure we never get jammed with an omnibus spending bill again and all of that, it's like you can't really do that.


TAPPER: What about this -- there was talk and, again, we don't know what was negotiated. But what about this talk of a church committee- style investigation of the FBI and the Justice Department to be helmed by one of these Freedom Caucus individuals, whether it is Scott Perry or someone else?

ARMSTRONG: I don't know what the terms of that is. I've always been clear, and I think that's part of what I've actually been engaged in. I'm very, very committed to having that be under the civil liberties. You can do it as a select committee, you can do that, but I believe that needs to be under the umbrella of the Judiciary Committee.

As somebody who served on that committee for two year, knows their staff, knows Jim Jordan, knows the members there, I think they have the skill set to do that in a meaningful way that actually shows progress for the American people. So I have been working on that. I am very supportive of that in those circumstances.

TAPPER: Oversight is important, absolutely. It's just a responsible oversight I think you would agree. Another question I have here is so far it looks as though he's going to pick up 12 rebels, which is a big achievement for this ballot from the 11th to the 12th. That's a huge achievement and certainly it's momentum. It is not going to be enough votes to make Kevin McCarthy speaker of the House on this 12th ballot as far as we can tell.

Of course, it is still possible depending on the total number of individuals that are voting today. But assuming he does not get to the magic number of whatever the majority of the current numbers of individuals on the House is right now, is it possible to get these holdouts? Is it possible to get Rosendale and Gaetz and Boebert and Gosar and Paris? Are they even gettable?

ARMSTRONG: I think some of them probably aren't. Some of them probably are. I just sent a text to my colleagues and I said, this is cause for celebration. This is cause for excitement but we haven't won anything yet. Nobody spiked the football. Keep working with people. Keep building those relationships because we've got to continue to move forward.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Kelly Armstrong from the great state of North Dakota, thanks so much. Don't be a stranger. We love talking to you.

ARMSTRONG: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: What just happened? I just saw more applause for somebody. Does anybody have a beat on what just happened on the floor? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're trying --

TAPPER: It wasn't a flip. It's just a McCarthy vote, I'm told. But in any case, it is -- we still have a couple outstanding votes. We haven't heard from Gosar, we haven't heard from Ogles. They're doing the --

BASH: Wait, hang on.

TAPPER: We're seeing right now, Matt --

BASH: Gosar. They're going back to.

TAPPER: Gosar, here he goes.


BASH: McCarthy.


TAPPER: Gosar went to McCarthy. And we saw some surprised looks on the faces of individuals.

BASH: And you could really see that conversation between Gaetz and Gosar, Gosar seemed to almost be apologizing to Gaetz saying something to the effect, sorry, man, I got to go --

TAPPER: I got to get on --

BASH: I got to go with Kevin.

TAPPER: I got to get on this train before I'm completely left behind on the train platform.

BASH: So I just want to go back as we look at the numbers as something, John, you alluded to before which is at the absentee. I just got a text from a longtime Republican House staffer saying that that -- right now is the question, the time when we put that into question when it comes to the threshold that he needs. Before we were saying it's -- he couldn't afford to lose any more than four. It could be fewer than that now if the number of total members are fewer.


BASH: He needs a lower threshold. Who's that?

TAPPER: And Ogles, too. That's 14 --

BASH: So now there are six.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So the 20 has switched to seven.

TAPPER: Theoretically. Kevin McCarthy for the first time since this process began, might actually get more votes than the Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, who's been at 212 but we don't know what Democrats are not here right now.

HUNT: Well, and that actually could be a critical number also. I keep -- you know, I've been asking sources throughout this process and I still can't get a hard answer in terms of how many Democrats are missing from what's going on right now, but it is -- I think it's worth noting, Patrick McHenry, a key McCarthy ally, told our Manu Raju that they expect more votes today, so it looks like they're going to really try to pressure and squeeze those who are left and just say, hey, this train is leaving the station, you got to get on board now or never.

And that is kind of a different conversation than the one we were having here around this table late last night where they were talking about potentially kicking this past the weekend because they just couldn't see an outcome.

BASH: Looks like 431, right?


BASH: Have voted.

TAPPER: I'm told there is one Democratic absence, Congressman David Trone is not here. So that would bring the standard down.

BASH: It's 433.

HUNT: Ken Buck is gone so that 432, although he may be coming back today.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Ralph Norman is an interesting one because he was saying earlier today that he was going to plan to vote for Byron Donalds and he voted for McCarthy.

HUNT: Yes.

COLLINS: And so it even shows you the dealmaking that was happening. Clearly, I know John was making the point earlier about these good- faith negotiations is why part of these numbers are voting for this now. They could flip later since he's already losing this vote but it does make -- raise that question about the dealmaking going on.

TAPPER: I will say, if the numbers are right and we're still trying to figure out how many people are here as are the clerks, it could be 216 or 217, and I'm not sure which it will be.

HUNT: Well, so if we know Ken Buck is missing on the Republican side and we know that there's one Democrat missing --

BASH: It's 431. You add all that together.

HUNT: That's two -- we're missing two members from 434?

TAPPER: That's three people that are missing. BASH: Three people.

HUNT: Three people are missing.

TAPPER: Right, that would mean that the number -- that would mean --

KING: They said Congressman Trone, a Democrat, was missing.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: They called his name twice and we know Congressman Buck is missing.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: So there's one more person who's missing.

HUNT: One more person not currently voting.

KING: Not currently voting anyway, whether they're there or whether they're out of town, you know, or just not available. That we don't know. But this could be the first --

HUNT: And we don't know if they're Republican or Democrat.

KING: This could be the first time in 12 votes that Kevin McCarthy actually comes out on top.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: It's not enough to win.

TAPPER: And in addition, although I don't -- I don't know this is going to be the case and probably Kevin McCarthy doesn't either, in addition there could be momentum to go to a 13th ballot and pressure the four individuals who voted for Congressman Jordan or the three individuals who voted for Congressman Hern or this could be, OK, let's vote to adjourn, we'll continue negotiations, we'll come back Monday and we'll seal this deal.

BASH: Yes, although that's dangerous.

KING: It tested how much of the Never Kevin is in cement.

TAPPER: And this is going to be a call that McCarthy and his team have to make. Do we keep plugging along, do we feel the momentum? I mean, you saw Paul Gosar, some of these individuals, you said, one of the individuals, I forget which one it was, Bishop or --

KING: Bishop and Ogles.

TAPPER: Who was the one that was going to vote for Byron Donalds?

COLLINS: Ralph Norman.

TAPPER: Ralph Norman told Manu an hour ago he was going to vote for Byron Donalds. He ended up voting for McCarthy. So there is something going on on the floor, and this momentum is important when it comes to a House --


KING: They're doing math right there.

BASH: They are. They're trying to figure out --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're doing the same math we are.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the other number apart from the denominator we need to look at is the number seven. Those -- that's how many Never Kevins, opponents we have. I just heard from a Republican strategist who has worked on the Hill for a long time who is not a fan of Kevin McCarthy's and this person is sort of looking at these seven names, thinks that Kevin can get three of them at least, maybe a fourth to turn and bring it down.

TAPPER: And that may be all he needs. We're going to squeeze in this quick break. Giant surprise today on the House floor, conservative Republican rebels changing their votes. We have had a number of -- we have 14 flips from either present or for another Never Kevin candidate to McCarthy. He has momentum. Is he going to continue right now? Is he going to take a break? We're going to take a break. We'll be right back.



COOPER: And welcome back to CNN's special live coverage. It took 12 ballots but now there is a break in the Republican resistance to Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy promised progress. We are finally seeing it. 14 rebel holdouts moving from never to eventually Kevin. For the first time McCarthy netting more votes than Hakeem Jeffries. We should note McCarthy still on track to fall short of that magic number needed to clinch the speakership. We shall see. It's likely they'll move quickly to another vote.

Let's go to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Manu, what are you seeing and hearing.

RAJU: Yes. There's going to be a real effort to try to win over those remaining holdouts. Patrick McHenry was one of the top deputies of Kevin McCarthy told me just moments ago that they see clear momentum moving in their direction. Now they're going to focus on those remaining holdouts and they may have some support from some of those who flipped. One of those who flipped Scott Perry.

He's the leader of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, someone who had been opposing Kevin McCarthy all along but engaged in negotiations over the last day or so to give them more say over the legislative process.

Ultimately he said the deal was inked after he saw the details on paper. He said he was comfortable with it and decided to move forward. He just told a group of us just now that they plan to lobby and discuss and try to convince some of the members who may be hesitant to support this right now.

Now, also one very important thing he said that was part of the deal is dealing with raising the national debt limit. He just told a group of us that they addressed this issue. This is going to be a major, major flash point in the new Congress. They have to avoid a debt default. And that's going to happen sometime this year, maybe in the middle part of this year. He said there's some agreement on how to deal with.

One thing he said they would not agree to a clean debt ceiling increase, meaning they need some conditions tied to avoid a national debt default which has never happened in American history so that is going to be a huge fight going forward. But from what Scott Perry just told a group of us that was part of this deal that has not yet been publicly released but apparently was reached between a handful of these holdouts and Kevin McCarthy.

So this deal not just process, giving them more leverage over the speaker, being able to oust a sitting speaker with one individual doing that, having more members of those hard-right Freedom Caucus on some of the key committees, but policy implications as well in dealing with the national debt ceiling. Big significant issue going forward but for McCarthy right now on the floor they're counting the votes right now.

The clerks are making sure that the tally is correct. He's likely going to fall short here but they feel clear momentum. They think they can get there maybe not today but very close, maybe in the next coming days they believe that McCarthy will soon become speaker of the House.

COOPER: Manu, do you expect them to push for another vote immediately?